This is a strange book. Green Pipes: Poems and Pictures (1929) was written and illustrated by Joseph Rous Paget-Fredericks (1903–1963), a man better known these days for a substantial collection of memorabilia and archive material related to 20th-century dance. Paget-Fredericks studied with Léon Bakst then went on to create his own costume designs as well as producing some books for children of which this is an example. In style the poems aim at AA Milne’s When We Were Very Young but succumb to tweeness with a superfluity of fairies and pixies. At first glance the illustrations seem just as twee until you notice remarkable details such as costumes and foliage created from a wealth of disconnected lines and squiggles. The drawing of a Smoke Sprite is closer to something by Alastair than EH Shepard, while the Snow Fairy is the vaguest outline in a dress composed of circles, lines and dots. The Green Pipes of the title are the pipes of Pan, and so we get a late eruption of that peculiar flourishing of Pan Mania that extends from the 1890s to the 1930s. A book of children’s poetry isn’t the place you’d expect to encounter flower children kneeling before a piping faun but after the openly Pantheist chapter of The Wind in the Willows anything is possible. Far more out of place among all the fairies is a painting of a pirate brandishing a bloody cutlass. And what are we to make of the lines at the end of Elfin Children?
Then from the windowed heights we stream
By silent starlit mire…
The Starlit Mire (1911) was a book of epigrams by James Bertram & F. Russell illustrated by Austin Osman Spare (with a head of Pan blocked onto the cover). It’s not at all a book for children so the occurrence of that phrase in Paget-Fredericks’ poem is very surprising. Is “starlit mire” a quote that precedes the Bertram & Russell book? Please leave a comment if you know.